INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS • May 31, 2021
In the 14th of February elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, 52% of Catalans voted in favour of parties that call for Catalonia to become an independent state. This is an irrefutable victory for the Catalan pro-independence movement, after years of mass mobilizations that culminated in the October 1st, 2017 referendum on self-determination. The plebiscite was carried out in support for the creation of an independent state in the form of a republic, winning by a landslide despite the harsh repression exerted by the Spanish police in an attempt to stop it, and which led to more than 1,000 injured, some seriously.
As a result of those events, nine Catalan civic and political leaders were put in pre-trial detention. In October 2019, they were handed down sentences of 9 to 13 years prison for charges of sedition and embezzlement, some for having organized the referendum, and others for calling for peaceful demonstrations. The president of the Catalan government, several members of the cabinet and other elected officials had to go into exile in Belgium, Scotland, and Switzerland.
The 2019 trial of the Catalan pro-independence leaders in the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid was plagued with serious non-democratic irregularities. Before the sentence was made public, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for their immediate release and for reparation for their arbitrary detention. Belgian justice recently ruled that the Spanish Supreme Court was not the competent authority to try the Catalan leaders, adding that in Spain “the presumption of innocence is at risk of being abused.” Moreover, several international human rights organizations drew attention to the absence of the principle of contradiction in the trial, the provision of irrelevant evidence to the case during the trial, and the lack of a right to appeal. Several members of the Catalan government and political leaders are still in exile in Belgium and Switzerland.
In response to the disproportionate sentences, mass demonstrations took place in October of 2019, which were severely repressed, leading to a total of 594 wounded (70 of them journalists) and the arrest of 194 protesters, 28 of whom were taken into pre-trial detention.
Since 2017, the ceaseless criminalization of the political will of the people of Catalonia by the Spanish state has led to the prosecution of nearly 3,300 people. A repressive operation against an entire people that involves a violation of fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and political representation. This has been condemned by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, several United Nations Member States – in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review – and also non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture and the World Jurist Association, among others.
The electoral results of the 14th of February elections, where the pro-independence forces have achieved a historic result with an absolute majority in seats, and this time also in votes (52% of the total), ratify the will of the Catalan people to become an independent state as expressed in the victorious 1st of October 2017 referendum. A claim the international community can no longer continue ignoring.
We, international personalities, activists, intellectuals, and representatives of political and social organizations from various countries have observed the arbitrary actions of the Spanish authorities with concern and express our support for the aspiration of freedom of the Catalan people. For these reasons, the signatories of this manifesto call for a resolution of the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain, based on the following points:
- Respect for the fundamental rights of the citizens of Catalonia, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and political participation and representation.
- Immediate release of all Catalan political prisoners, and an end to the repression and all legal proceedings against activists and political and social representatives of the Catalan pro-independence movement. State authorities must publicly apologize to victims of arbitrary repression, including the exiles. All these victims must receive reparations.
- Respect and recognition of the right to self-determination of the people of Catalonia according to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as exercised in the October 1st, 2017 referendum. •
See full list of signatories.
International Support for Catalan Self-Determination
Catalan National Assembly
A collection of signatures in support of Catalonia’s right to freedom as a people, coordinated by the Catalan National Assembly, brings together 120 personalities and entities from around twenty countries all over the world. The signatories call for an end to Spanish repression, respect for the fundamental rights of the victims of repression, the release of prisoners, and recognition of the right to self-determination of the people of Catalonia.
One hundred twenty international personalities from more than 20 countries around the world, including members of the European Parliament, academics, activists and social and human rights organizations, have supported a manifesto promoted by the Catalan National Assembly.
Acknowledged figures such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquível (Argentina), the former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, the president of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald (Ireland), the former leader of the Bloco d’Esquerda and historian Fernando Rosas (Portugal), the Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and President of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia Hywel Williams, or the former Vice President of the European Parliament José Pacheco-Pereira (Portugal), as well as representatives of civil society such as the “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo”(Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), the European Language Equality Network (ELEN), the Székler National Council and various associations in support of the Rif people, have all contributed their signatures to the document.
The manifesto [see above] denounces the judicial persecution to which elected political leaders and Catalan activists are being subjected for their participation in the organization of the independence referendum of October 1, 2017, as well as the victims of repression at the hands of the Spanish authorities in the time since then, especially during the protests against the October 2019 sentences.
In addition, the manifesto mentions the 2019 opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations, which calls for the immediate release and redress for the Catalan political prisoners. It also highlights the lack of respect for the presumption of innocence of the prisoners, and the lack of competence of the Spanish Supreme Court to try them, as well as other human rights violations that occurred during the trial, as denounced by various international organizations.
In this sense, the signatories of the manifesto denounce “the criminalization of the political will of the people of Catalonia by the Spanish State, which does not cease, and which has led to the prosecution of nearly 3,300 people,” as well as “violations of fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and to political representation”, as condemned by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Member States of the United Nations in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review, and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture or the World Organization of Jurists, among others.
The text highlights that the electoral results of the 14 February 2021 elections, in which the pro-independence forces achieved a historic absolute majority in seats, and this time also in votes (52% of the total), ratify the will of the Catalan people to become an independent state, expressed in the victory of the referendum of October 1, 2017, a claim to which the international community cannot turn a blind eye and remain impassive.
For all this, the signatories demand respect for the fundamental rights of the victims of Spanish abuse, the release of prisoners, an end to repression and respect and recognition of the right to self-determination of the people of Catalonia. •
This statement first published on the Assemblea Nacional Catalana website.